LOTRO Legendarium: Ranking LOTRO’s Rhovanion zones from worst to best

    
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A while back, I amused myself by ranking all of the Eriador zones in Lord of the Rings Online. It was a fun exercise and one that I wanted to continue by looking at further regions of the game. So today, I want to do the same for Rhovanion.

If you can’t easily wrap your head around what Rhovanion is, it’s all of the game’s landmass east of the Misty Mountains and north of Gondor and Mordor. It’s made up of a wide variety of zones, both in biomes and level ranges, and as such, offers a lot of fodder for a ranking list.

So let’s start with the worst that Rhovanion has to offer and work our way up to the best!

Iron Hills

I’ll preface this by saying that none of the zones on this list I truly despise. They’re going to range from “eh… it’s fine” to “really great.” So we’ll start with Iron Hills, which, eh, it’s fine. It’s kind of an ugly zone with monotonous craggy hills, some Dwarf stuff, and no great stories of note. I never stay there longer than required.

Grey Mountains (Ered Mithrin)

Grey Mountains came paired with Iron Hills as a one-two shot of mediocrity. It’s got a few interesting vistas, such as a strange-looking forest in the west, but it’s nothing special on the whole. The one aspect that I hate with a passion from this zone is Skarháld, a jumbled, multi-tiered Dwarf ruin that players are required to navigate multiple times. It’s always easy to get lost and annoying to get around, and it seriously made me grumpy at the Dwarves there.

Elderslade

LOTRO’s latest zone is doing double duty in both a “before” and “during” battle version. The battle landscape is more captivating by far, but the whole zone is kind of underwhelming. Like the above two regions, this one doesn’t have a lot of personality to it and is a dull entry point to the fall expansion city of Gundabad.

Wells of Langflood

It’s… pretty? I do like these river zones, and this one has a weird association with the Rohirrim that makes it notable. Wells of Langflood has some visually pleasing questing areas, a fact which is countered by sometimes troubling navigation up and down hills.

Moria

I know, it’s a bit of a cheat to throw ALL of Moria in with one mention, but I’m going to do it for the sake of keeping this list from becoming overwhelming. Besides, there isn’t much I could say about one Moria region that doesn’t apply to most of the rest. There are some terrific visuals, some very annoying places to traverse, and an overall sense of claustrophobia. It’s certainly a great achievement. A great collection of zones? I won’t go that far.

East Rohan (Eastemnet)

We’ll move into the two expansive Rohan zones. And they certainly ARE expansive, designed for the now-neglected mounted combat system. While there’s about 40% more questing here than we really needed to keep us occupied, I do like Rohan for its beauty, wide-open settings, interesting settlements, and interesting stories.

West Rohan (Westemnet)

And I’m going to place West Rohan one spot higher because it has Helm’s Deep, and that’s a deeply impressive addition that causes any Tolkien fan to geek out.

Lothlórien

Visually, Lothlórien is flat-out amazing. The golden hues of this forest are refreshing after spending so much time in the flora-deprived Moria, and you do get a great sense of peace there. However, the questing is super-fluffy (hey! pick more flowers why don’t you!), the Elves weirdly antagonistic at first, and the treehouse city not that enjoyable to navigate.

Great River

Truth in advertising: Great River is a great zone. It’s got a lot of diversity, some terrific quest chains, and generally good-looking sights. It’s a terrific prologue to Rohan that actually upstages what is to come.

Vales of Anduin

By the time we got to Vales, I felt that we were due for a good “pretty” zone — and boy did we get it. Vales has Grimbeorn’s cabin, the genuinely misty Misty Mountains, a fantastic-looking bog, and even a Hobbity surprise. This is one of the best zones we’ve gotten in the past few years.

Wildermore

I’m a sucker for a really good snow zone, and Rohan’s Wildermore did me a solid with its presentation. It’s very well-designed with loads of interesting stories and nooks and crannies, and I think it does a great job conveying a sense of cold in a way that isn’t often done in MMOs.

Northern Mirkwood (Eryn Lasgalen) and Dale-lands

This feels like a cheat as well, since it’s kind of two zones smashed together to make one. Northern Mirkwood is far more murky than its southern neighbor, hosting a lot of tie-ins with The Hobbit. It’s perhaps a wee bit too dark and too long at times, but I’m inclined to forgive it — especially when I come out into the gorgeous Dale-lands and see Erebor in the distance. There’s a whole lot here, and so much of it is good.

Mirkwood

Yet I’m going to claim the best Rohvanion zone — at least for my taste — is the O.G. Mirkwood. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve always loved it for its striking visuals, its very creepy atmosphere, the sheer variety, the Haunted Inn, and the way that the devs made you feel like there really was a campaign to reclaim the land from the Enemy’s forces.

That’s my list and my ranking — what is yours? Post your ranked Rhovanion list in the comments!

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
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Stormsong Minstrel

My own list (if anybody cares):
Iron Hills
Grey Mountains. You know, all the phrases like “ghghrt gggeeettt bububu jkjkj 0/2”. And ruins, can’t imagine any Dwarf living like a beggar.
Mirkwood
New Mirkwood & Eryn Lasgalen. Because of dark forest where there is dark sky, dark paths, dark rivers flowing, map tells precisely what was the price of milk in Australia at 1410. It’s like 550 shades of black.
Great River.
Wells of Langflood. Total boredom with zero stories
Moria.
Lothlorien. Well, Elves, more elves, treehouses and maze of treehouses…yet refreshing after Moria.
Wildermore. Stories, surroundings
Vales of Anduin. Yes, home of strong and proud Beornings. The place one understands what monster-bees look like and where you just have to ask “I have slained goblins today, can you tell the same?”.
The best is – Rohan. Stories, stories and stories, choices and last time we have anything that needs choice.

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Koshelkin

It’s good to see someone else sharing my love for the original Mirkwood. I loved the haunted, creepy feeling, and the quest-chain slowly leading up to Dol Guldur, the imposing stronghold of Sauron.

I’d also rate Rohan and Moria very highly, though Rohan slogs on a little too long for my taste. Moria just does what it is supposed to do very good. I was genuinely happy to escape from that cursed place. I can remember the feeling of triumph when I took my first steps through the eastern gates of moria into Dimrill Dale. Just as I ought to feel.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Lothlorien, after the darkness of Moria, was indeed glorious. The flets, the white and gold trees, the protected wildlife. Even the daily runs to get rep were pleasant. The rewards were beautiful.

Mirkwood was challenging on release. The zone seemed small and cramped, but the atmosphere was as oppressive as Lothlorien was bright. Some of the daily rep quests were hard, some very hard depending on your class. And the dungeons were the last great dungeons, in my opinion. Easy to run with a PUG, but deadly if you made mistakes. And Sword Halls. How many times did we run it? How much prep time. That was back in the day when you had to travel to the dungeon entrance. Just getting there sometimes was a good trick. And the wonderful skirms. I have to agree that Mirkwood belongs at the top of the list.

I have to add a special shout out to the Troll bosses in Mirkwood. Standing alone in somewhat concealed places, they just begged to be attacked. Our kin Guardian, no matter what we were doing or how late it was, would always go for them. “We’re here, we’re dirty,” he’d say and ready or not, we were in combat.

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Tobasco da Gama

I thought both the quests and landscapes — cities in particular — in Eastemnet were vastly better than Westemnet. It feels like Helm’s Deep itself is doing a lot of heavy lifting there.

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Anstalt

Admittedly I haven’t played many of these zones as I quit not long after Rise of Isenguard came out (to go play swtor).

But, I’m shocked to see Mirkwood as your top choice!

For me (and literally everyone in my guild at the time) it was the worst zone Turbine ever created! It was tiny. It was over-gamified. It lacked cohesion. It didn’t fit with the way the entire rest of the game had been designed. It lacked content. And, possibly worst of all, it didn’t feel like Mirkwood should feel, either in relation to the books or the films.

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Vincent Clark

It does seem unfair to have all of Moria as a choice, but that is definitely my fave.

Second is Lothlórien with the Great River (strangely enough) not far behind.

Rohan, in general, got old–and maybe it’s because we spent far too long (irl) in those areas. I just had a flash back of rebuilding Hytbold. I’m gonna need a minute. #ptsd